Justin Rose carded a blemish-free round of 63 to take the lead alongside Harold Varner III in the first major tournament since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport.

The world number 14 was the clubhouse leader in Fort Worth, Texas, after the early starters finished their rounds, with American Varner holing an 11-foot putt at the 18th to finish on seven under.

The pair hold a one-shot lead over Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Americans Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas.

Dustin Johnson did not enjoy his own return to action quite so much, as the world number five stumbled to a one-over 71 and carded four bogeys in a rusty round.

Ian Poulter was in a group tied for 16th place after a round of 66 while Phil Mickelson – fresh from his challenge matches with Tiger Woods during the shutdown – could only manage a one-under 69 to sit in a share of 57th place.

The event is the first on the PGA Tour since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida in early March, and has drawn a star-studded field to Texas.

Sixteen of the world top 20 will be in action over the weekend, and top-ranked Rory McIlroy’s round of 68 was good enough for a share of 39th place.

Rose said a bit of luck on the opening hole had set him on his way as he overcame some wayward shots to birdie his first hole.

“I got some momentum,” he said on Sky Sports Golf. “I didn’t play particularly well on the first six or seven holes but the putter was really hot.

“I got into a nice rhythm and I could have maybe got in the clubhouse better but I rode my luck a little bit.”

Rose felt the performance was reward for the work he managed to do during the hiatus.

“I’ve worked hard for sure,” he said. “I haven’t just sat around. I had the opportunity to get better. My season wasn’t going particularly well up until the Players Championship so you try to look at the positives.

“Obviously it’s been a tough situation for everybody across the world, there are some dire circumstances, but you’ve got to look at yourself, your personal situation, and think, ‘How can I make the most of this?’”


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